Archive for September 2010

Butterflies 2010

Posted by on September 26th 2010 in In the garden

This year has been a better one for the range of species that have visited our garden. So far, the list of species found is as follows:

  • Small Skipper Thymelicus sylvestris
  • Large White Pieris brassicae
  • Small White Pieris rapae
  • Green-veined White Pieris napi
  • Common Blue Polyommatus icarus (these have been so vividly blue that I thought that they were the rarer Adonis Blues)
  • Holly Blue Celastrina argiolus
  • Comma Polygonia c-album
  • Ringlet Aphantopus hyperantus
  • Small Tortoiseshell Aglaise urticae
  • Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta
  • Peacock Inachis io
  • Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria
  • Wall Lasiommata megera
  • Gatekeeper Pyronia tithonus
  • Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina
  • Small Heath Coenonympha pamphilus

Again, that's not a bad list for an urban garden in the Midlands, but there are still notable absences - here's a list of species that we usually see here but which haven't put in an appearance so far this year:

  • Large Skipper Ochlodes venata
  • Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni
  • Painted Lady Cynthia cardui (we had lots of these last year but none this year)
  • Orange Tip Anthocharis cardamines
  • Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas

40 pics so far this year, click this one to get started:


Review – Merrell Chameleon Wrap Slams – now with sound-effects!

Posted by on September 22nd 2010 in My reviews, Shiny new kit

Another update on the Merrell Chameleon Wrap Slams from Fitness Footwear Ltd....

Well, they're still comfy and grippy, but there's a problem - they've started squeaking!

At first I thought it was a sole issue, but after further investigation it turns out to be due to some of the innards. In each shoe there are two fillets of support material (closed-cell padding, I suspect) beneath the lining in the areas marked in yellow in the next two pics. These fillets all now squeak whenever they are compressed, i.e. every time a step is taken. The noises started out as quiet mouse-like squeaks last week but now it's akin to walking on whoopee-cushions. It's a shame that such a good bit of kit is now ruined by this annoyance.




I was putting the insoles back in after taking the above pics when I noticed the sizing on the underside. I'm still trying to figure out why size 8.5 insoles have been put into size 8 shoes (that's nominal size 8, of course, as in reality they're probably 7.5s or maybe even 7s).



I'm now of the opinion that if I'd paid for these I'd be sending them back to the retailer for replacement or refund, as they're no longer fit for purpose after less than three months of generally casual use, and as Merrell have put in the wrong insoles. Sadly this would be harsh on the retailer as it is a matter beyond his/her control, being the fault of the manufacturer.

Observing Report 15th-16th September 2010 (Clusters and Comets)

Posted by on September 17th 2010 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports, Pics

It was generally nice and clear here on Wednesday evening so I got set up pretty sharpish after our weekly evening shopping trip. The seeing was quite good although there was the threat of isolated showers. The aim was to get some more views of Messier objects and to image them if possible, and then to find Comet 103P/Hartley which is increasing in brightness for the next few weeks, and which is currently above the horizon all night long.

Despite having to shut the roof a couple of times due to spitting rain, after a few hours I'd looked at a fair range of Messiers (M31, M32, M34, M35, M36, M37, M38, M45 and M110) with the 8" scope and had acquired images of the M37 and M38 with the D50. The resultant (clickable) images are as follows:

M37 (aka NGC 2099), an open cluster in the constellation Auriga.
Subs: 8 light @ 200s, darks, no flats, ISO200.
D50 and MPCC on the C8N, guided with PHD.

 M38 (aka NGC 1912), an open cluster in the constellation Auriga.
Subs: 11 light @ 200s, darks, no flats, ISO200.
D50 and MPCC on the C8N, guided with PHD.

Then it was time to have a look-see at the comet. It was just a faint smudge visible through the binoculars and through the scope, but the D50 and scope combo picked it up quite well with 200s exposures. I stacked 10 frames and, after a lot of post-processing, ended up with this pic:

103P/Hartley, currently in the constellation Andromeda.
Subs: 10 light @ 200s, darks, no flats, ISO200.
D50 and MPCC on the C8N, guided with PHD.

 As previous but cropped and enlarged a bit.

The comet's poorly-defined and quite dim at the moment, but it should develop a better tail and become much brighter in the coming weeks - it's closest to Earth on 20th October and closest to the Sun on 28th October, and is predicted to reach naked-eye visibility around those dates. If you want to know where and when to stare, have a look at

Another kick in The Proms

Posted by on September 12th 2010 in A bit of a rant, On the box

I well remember the good old days when the Last Night of The Proms was a real chance for a bit of good-natured enthusiasm for our national identity. A chance to enjoy some British classical music after 9 weeks of listening to foreign imports. Oh, and there was some "bobbing" to be done, too.

Well, according to the Beeb, that same ethos still applies: "While it lives up to its reputation of a fun Last Night party celebrating British tradition..." - sounds promising, eh?


It didn't deliver on that promise. We got the following:

  • Jonathan Dove A Song of Joys
  • Tchaikovsky Capriccio Italien
  • Tchaikovsky arr. Rysanov Rococo Variations
  • Parry Blest Pair of Sirens
  • R. Strauss Verführung, Op. 33 No. 1, Freundliche Vision, Op. 48 No. 1, Ständchen, Op. 17 No. 2, Winterweihe, Op. 48 No. 4, Zueignung, Op. 10 No. 1
  • Chabrier Joyeuse marche
  • Smetana Dalibor – 'Dobrá! Já mu je dám! … Jak je mi?'
  • Dvorák Rusalka – Song to the Moon
  • Vaughan Williams Suite for viola and small orchestra – Prelude; Galop
  • Wagner Lohengrin – Bridal Chorus
  • Rodgers and Hammerstein Carousel – 'You'll never walk alone'
  • Trad, arr. Nic Raine Fisher's Hornpipe
  • Arne Rule, Britannia!
  • Parry, orch. Elgar Jerusalem
  • Elgar Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 in D major ('Land of Hope and Glory')
  • The National Anthem

Sift the Brit-Grit out of that. Be careful, there ain't much there, and there were hardly any "bobbing" opportunities. How on Earth can anybody justify omitting works by Henry Wood, such as his Fantasia on British Sea Songs? FFS, Wood started the whole shebang, he conducted the Proms for almost half a century, his bust looks down over the whole show, and now he's snubbed.


Just in case you don't remember those good old days, here's what we used to get. British stuff. Red meat on the bone...

  • Elgar Pomp and Circumstance: Military March No. 4
  • Walton Crown Imperial
  • Elgar Enigma Variations: No. 9 Nimrod
  • Holst I vow to Thee, my Country
  • Vaughan Williams Fantasia on Greensleeves
  • Elgar Chanson de matin
  • Coates London: No. 3 Knightsbridge
  • Handel Zadok the Priest (Coronation Anthem)
  • Clarke Trumpet Voluntary
  • Wood Fantasia on British Sea Songs
  • Arne Rule, Britannia!
  • Elgar Pomp and Circumstance: Military March No. 1
  • Parry Jerusalem
  • The National Anthem

There you go. Proper stuff.

We used to get British conductors too, but that's gone all "PC" as well.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not a Nationalist by any stretch of the imagination. It's just that I get narked by this constant erosion of our national identity.

Summery summary

Posted by on September 11th 2010 in Pics

An evening stroll around Croft Country Park

Me nuts are falling off!

Posted by on September 11th 2010 in In the garden, Pics

Autumn has arrived:

Hazelnut clusters - the best I've found so far is a niner

The harvest so far - not bad from just the one small bush

A couple of the many Shield Bugs on my hazel bush

Observing Report 30th-31st August 2010 Part 2 (Jupiter)

Posted by on September 1st 2010 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports, Pics

As previously mentioned, I did get a bit of Jupiter data. I didn't expect the results to be any good bearing in mind the glare and the less-than-reasonable seeing conditions, but it's turned out fairly well:


Jupiter (31/08/2010 @ 00:43).
100/1000 per-channel RGB composite.
DMK mono CCD camera on the C8N.

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